The Six Degrees of Missing

I worked a 6 hour shift today, and the different between this one and it’s twin that I worked yesterday, is that today the pool was dead. Well not dead, but getting there. It’s a Sunday so the first two hours that we were open were adult swim. The sounds of the waves the lap swimmers created were hypnotic. I feel into a peaceful thought pattern, as my eyes scanned the pool.

I started thinking about time and how it contracts and shrinks and grows as it pleases. Minutes in the lifeguard chair seem hours long. Your break seems to last seconds. Time does as it pleases and it has shrunk and expanded its way to the present moment: in less than a month, I am leaving for college. It has yet to seem completely real but at the same time, I know that it is.

As I sat there watching the pool, my mind drifted from me leaving to college to the fact that about half of my co-workers have already been to college and how they can now say “back when I was in high school…”. It seems strange to me. The people you’re close to have no age, no time. They’re just there.

Next in the thought train was the fact that even though many of my co-workers spend the year away from where they grew up, they return to the pool every summer. The pool is their summer family. Time passes–9 months almost–but when they come back, everything picks up where it left off.

That got me thinking about people and being apart from them. About how there are a lot of people that I miss and will miss come this August, but the thing is: I don’t miss them all in the same way. So then as I sat in the guard chair, I came up with a list. The six degrees of missing.

You see, you can miss a person six ways.

One: You can miss a person in bursts. They’re strong bursts, that come without moments of warning. Perhaps they are triggered by an old picture, a familiar feeling, a similar moment, anything. The missing comes for just a moment though. It erupts behind your heart and stays there, surrounding it, surrounding your mind, your soul–but all for just a moment. And then it disappears, just as quickly as it was formed, and you go on with your life.

Two: You can miss someone constantly, but it’s not a loud missing. It’s a quiet missing, one that doesn’t distract you from your daily life. It’s just there behind your hert, ticking along with your heartbeats. It’s there, so softly that you almost don’t feel it. But yet you do, since it is indeed still there.

Three: You can miss someone in a combination of numbers one and two. The missing is there, as flat and constant as your heart line but there are bursts, fireworks, explosions, triggered by memories, in which the missing explodes. It engulfs your heart and you worry you don’t be able to pull in the next breath. But you do, and the flat, quiet heartbeat of missing is back again.

Four: You can miss someone without knowing you’re missing them. Your life is normal, they are not playing in a constant movie in your head but then suddenly, something will happen and you will pause for a moment and glances upwards. “Oh,” you’ll think, “I miss __.” And then you make plans to change that. Maybe the plans become reality. Maybe not.

Five: You can miss someone who is sitting right next to you, who is standing right next to you. Who is a part of your every day life but for some reason, distant. For some reason there is something blocking him or her away from you. Whether it be a fight or just time, they are not there completely, not in the way they should be.

Six: The last way to miss is the worse way to miss. It’s when you miss someone you haven’t even met. It’s when you miss a feeling you didn’t know you could miss. It’s when your whole body aches for something you can’t find. It’s when that missing leaves you feeling empty, but there is no way to fill that emptiness. No person, no place, nothing to run to.

I miss people in every single one of these ways.


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